Social Networks : The Right – And Wrong –Ways To Give & Receive Feedback

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Giving feedback to employeesand receiving feedback yourselfis one of the most misunderstood and poorly executed human resource processes, according to ClearRock, an outplacement and executive coaching firm headquartered in Boston.


"Managers and executives too often personalize their feedback to their direct reports, go into too much extraneous detail, are too judgmental, or forget to include positive observations along with negative comments," said Annie Stevens, managing partner with ClearRock (


"In addition to not learning themselves the right way to receive feedback, they haven't adequately explained this to their direct reports so they can most fully benefit from input," said Greg Gostanian, managing partner with ClearRock.


ClearRock provides these guidelines for giving and receiving feedback. 


·  Focus on the positive first before giving criticism.  "Feedback should start with positive observations about the contributions an employee is making before detailing areas that need improvement," said Stevens. 

·  Remain non-judgmental and do not personalize feedback.  "Focus on the behavior that needs to be changed, and not the person," said Gostanian. 

·  Limit feedback to those areas the employee has the ability to change.  "Feedback that is irrelevant will not be accepted by the recipient, and may even be detrimental.  For example, doctors usually don't give patients advice on how to dress," said Stevens. 

·  Use the word "I," and not "we."  Say "I observed you...," rather than "we observed you."  

·  Avoid "over-dumping" on someone.  "Often one behavioral example is all that's needed to help someone understand," said Gostanian. 

·  Give the recipient a chance to respond.  "Listen as openly as possible, even if all you expect to receive are rationalizations.  At least you will find out if your feedback has been understood," said Stevens. 

·  When receiving feedback, keep it in perspective and don't get overly defensive.  "Feedback is meant as constructive information for one's improvement, not as a judgment," said Gostanian.  "Try not to dwell on perceived negative comments, and balance it with what you know about yourself." 

·  Provide your reaction when given the chance to respond.  "Don't 'suffer in silence.'  Your response is integral to the feedback process.  Respond to feedback focusing on the comments without personalizing your reaction," said Stevens. 

·  Commit to what you have learned in a concrete, practical way.    

Copyright 2007 - ClearRock

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